The Bills opened training camp today and there are already a few interesting tidbits floating around.
The first comes from Mark Gaughan’s report in The Buffalo News. Right now, Brad Smith is listed as a quarterback on the roster. This means two things to me. One, they do not want to sacrifice one of their wide receiver positions on Smith when they can “hide” him elsewhere. Basically, Smith can play a variety of positions and you can’t necessarily pigeon-hole him into one. I was concerned after his signing because NFL teams have such ridgid numbers set as they enter camp and the regular season. It is a safe bet that the Bills will not have more than six receivers on their roster entering the year meaning Smith would have likely forced out either Marcus Easely, Donald Jones, David Nelson or Naaman Roosevelt. Now that he is listed as a QB the Bills won’t likely have to part with one of their youngsters.
The second thing this points out to me is the fact that they must really like Easley and Nelson. They are my favorites to secure the final WR spots behind Lee Evans, Stevie Johnson and Roscoe Parrish. I was particularly worried that Nelson would be cut due to the signing of Smith. Now it seems as if he may be safe. That being said, Jones and Roosevelt are likely the odd men out in the grand scheme of things. Smith can run out in kick and punt coverage like these two did last season. They became expendable when the Bills signed Smith.
Another report was much more worrisome to me. WGR 550 is reporting that Arthur Moats is being moved to inside linebacker. The same position he struggled at during the preseason last year. Perhaps this is a temporary fix while the Bills search for a replacement for Paul Posluszny, but Buddy Nix is either not showing his hand in free agency or is determined to have this hodgepodge of journeymen and rookies “improve” the worst run defense in the NFL.
There are many subtle levels that make up this massive mistake for the Bills. First, Moats developed into their best pass rusher off the edge last season. He leap frogged Aaron Maybin (although that isn’t saying much) and was far more effective than Chris Kelsay as an OLB, both in coverage and at the line. Secondly, Moats was horrendous in the middle during the preseason. He was getting blown by in coverage by tight ends and he couldn’t range very well from the middle of the defense. Keep in mind, that was against the twos and threes from most teams as well. The fact of the mater is that they tried to make a college DE into an ILB and it just didn’t work. The move from DE to OLB isn’t as tough; outside of picking up coverages it is simply taking your hand off the ground.
What is truly concerning here is the fact that Kelsay is again listed as a starter. I fully expected Shawne Merriman to be one starter, that makes sense. But all Kelsay was good for last season was occupying blockers and getting beat in coverage. Moats was heads and shoulders more effective as an OLB. Kelsay is not that undersized to play DE in the 3-4 and that is where he belongs.
Add to that Moats is now second, or third, on the depth chart at ILB. He is currently behind Andra Davis and Reggie Torbor (another OLB) and could even be passed by Kelvin Sheppard. All this tells me is the Bills are content at not bringing in more talent, particularly at linebacker, and they are okay with allowing one of their best defensive weapons from last season watch from the sidelines this year.